When I first arrived in France three weeks ago as an English language assistant, I think the staff and students alike expected a relation of the Queen with a plate of fish and chips in hand to arrive at their school!
Over the past three weeks I have introduced myself to and answered the questions of at least a hundred French teenagers, many of whom have never visited England. Through their questions, I have been able to form a picture of how they believe a typical English person should be and I thought I would share some of their preconceptions and my answers …
1. Have you met the Queen?
I heard this question at least once in every class I taught in! Unfortunately, the answer is no, but I was eager to mention the fact that my Dad has met her.
2. Do you drink lots of tea?
I think I disappointed a lot of French teenagers when I admitted that it’s rare for me to drink tea. I do like tea but I would never make one for myself – only if someone else is offering to be polite! (Another English stereotype?!)
3. Does it rain all the time in England?
No! Whilst it’s true that England does have a lot of rainfall on average per year, we can have incredible summer weather too! There is nothing quite like being stood at the end of a pier on the British coast with an ice cream.
4. Do you eat fish and chips and an English breakfast a lot?
Every Saturday night in my house we eat fish and chips, and every Sunday lunchtime we eat an English breakfast. I see fish and chips as a treat to have at the weekend, not a normal meal to have every day and it’s the same for the English breakfast too. They are weekend treats rather than daily meals!
Before my arrival in France, I thought that all stereotypical English behaviours were exaggerated, but after answering many questions about my culture I now see a lot of them have some truth behind them! However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s been a great conversation starter and has allowed me to prove (and disprove) some preconceptions about life in England.
Do you think stereotypes help us to understand different cultures or not? What stereotypes do people have about people from your country? Are any of them true?